As an entrepreneur, business owner, or leader of any kind, the word schedule might make you want to run for this hills if you don’t have a “c” bone in your body (link to disc in c bone) You might be thinking the entire reason you went into business for yourself is that you didn’t want to be tied to a schedule. Today I want to shed some light on how using my calendar to schedule my day has drastically improved my productivity and given me MORE TIME.
I’ve always been a pen and paper type of girl. I like to write things down, take copious notes and have a physical record of something. On the flip side… I totally love technology.
Like L O V E.
I need the newest iPhone, latest operating system, etc. When it came to my to-do list, I’ve searched for electronic systems that would work for me. I’ve tried the reminders app on my iPhone, Evernote, Outlook and Gmail’s task managers and really just none of these options did it for me. When I switched from a traditional planner to a bullet journal (stay tuned for an entire post on how I use mine) I started writing out a daily to-do list.
This worked pretty well for a while. What I found though was this was not motivating me to actually get the tasks done or really putting any deadlines on them. I listened to an awesome podcast by Michael Hyatt on conquering your inbox clutter and one thing he said was that you have 5 options with email and one of them is DEFER or SCHEDULE the item. Something really clicked in me when I heard this and I knew I needed to start scheduling my to do’s. So that is exactly what I now do daily.
I have always used iCal with my husband to coordinate our events etc so it was a program I felt comfortable with. I’m going to talk about it here and talk about mainly Mac/iPhone features but most of this is applicable to any calendar program.
Where to Start
You can’t really schedule your tasks until you have a list of what they are. For this I use Evernote. I have a running to-do list saved in my shortcuts and keep it open on my desktop. I also have a shortcut to my Evernote on my iPhone.
Let the Scheduling Begin
Now that I have my to-do list I can start scheduling those tasks. I schedule in two ways:
- Reoccurring tasks I schedule out at the beginning of the week. For example, I know that every day I will need to check emails. I chose 3 times a day that I block off to check and respond to emails. This allows me to know as I go through the week knowing that I will not be booking calls, errands, or other things during this time. It also allows me to inform colleagues when to expect responses from me.
- One-time tasks I schedule each morning. So the first thing on my schedule is checking my emails and updating my to-do list. I then prioritize the one-time tasks that need to be done for the day and schedule them in my calendar. If it is something that has a later due date (for example bring supply to my son’s school for a Valentine’s party) I schedule the task right away for that date.
Now that I have all my tasks scheduled how do I use this tool to really keep me on track? A few things happen here. I check my schedule often. To do this easily I have set a keyboard shortcut so that I press one button and my schedule shows up on the right of my screen in my notification center. This is often throughout the day to check and see where I’m at and how much time I have left for a task. I also have alerts set on each calendar event so that 5 minutes before I’m to begin a new task a little alert pops up on my phone and my desktop.
To be honest, at first, this was a bit annoying. However, after about a week of using the notifications, I have found the really keep me motivated and focused. I see that I have 5 minutes to complete the project I’m on and then switch gears. It allows my brain to plan ahead.
Now, do I always complete every task in the time I’ve allotted? No. This is another HUGE benefit to having the electronic calendar. I’m able to simply drag and drop the task to another time or date. I also can easily go back and see what tasks am I not anticipating the time they actually take OR am I not scheduling them for a time of day when I am at my most productive. For example, working first thing in the morning on my hardest tasks is not a great plan for me. I need to ease into the day and feel accomplished in order to tackle those larger tasks. So I start my day with 4-5 quick, easy tasks that make me feel like I’m on a roll and give me momentum.
This system can work for anyone with minor tweaks. The important thing to take away here is that putting a timeline on your tasks is a huge motivating factor and that figuring out your most productive times of day will dramatically change your workflow. This doesn’t just apply to corporate jobs, I apply this same strategy to my housework and projects that are to be done with my kids, in fact, tomorrow we are cleaning out the garage and it’s on my calendar 😉
If you’d like more tips and information on how to make your calendar work for you be sure to contact me! I’d love to help you put a process in place to simplify your workflow and increase your productivity.